5. Denver Nuggets rookie Christian Braun’s winning ways
If you’re looking for a bona fide winner, look no further than Christian Braun. The scrappy rookie joined an exclusive list of players to win an NCAA championship and an NBA championship in consecutive seasons.
He joins four other players in basketball history who have achieved this back-to-back feat in their rookie season. Those players were Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Henry Bibby, and Billy Thompson.
Braun helped Kansas win their fourth NCAA title in 2022 as the Jayhawks beat the University of North Carolina in the championship. The 6-foot-7 wing played all 40 minutes of the championship game, adding 12 points and 12 boards with some typically exceptional defense.
With Denver, Braun’s minutes fluctuated throughout the regular season, but he ultimately earned Mike Malone’s trust as a consistent member of the playoff rotation. In the Finals, Braun especially excelled in his role to the tune of 5.8 points per game on a sublime 70.6% from the field. Braun also received his biggest workload of the postseason as Malone played the rook 16.3 minutes per contest.
Braun’s signature Finals moment came in Game 3 on the road. The youngster torched the Heat in their own building for 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting across 19 minutes of action.